Book Reviews

The Queen of Dirt Island – Donal Ryan – Audible Book Review

The Queen of Dirt Island – Donal Ryan – Audible Book Review

By: Donal Ryan
Narrated by: Emma Lowe
Length: 6 hrs and 46 mins

Amazingly, this is Donal Ryan’s 7th novel, dating back to The Spinning Heart which was published in 2012. This new work tells the story of a young girl and later woman called Saoirse. She lives in a house in rural Limerick. She is looked after by her mother and grandmother, with her father’s absence still palpable in their lives. Her father is present early on in the book, but after an accident, his death changes their lives forever. Strangely, as Saorise is so young at the time, the loss barely registers. We see its impact on those around her, as they try to start their lives again.

As the book is initially told from the perspective of the child, there is a slow drip feed of information as she makes sense of the world around her. It is an unusual situation for a young girl to be brought up by her mother, Eileen, along with her grandmother (Eileen’s mother-in-law) but the two women create enough stability for her. Later in the piece, we find answers to some of the queries, such as why Eileen is estranged from her family. Eileen’s brother Richard looms over the piece like a dark cloud waiting to explode.

The other men in the novel are a collection of misfits. Saoirse has two uncles, Chris and Paudie, and they never quite get their lives sorted, with no stable relationships or careers, with one a member of an illegal organisation.

One of the more unusual aspects of the novel is that money is rarely mentioned. While you would expect the family to struggle economically, yet they somehow get by with money rarely mentioned.

Throughout the book, we see four generations of one family, the Aylwards. While it is not quite as epic as that sounds, there is a span of over twenty years in their lives. Some of the elements of the plot may seem trivial, whereas others deal with big issues such as suicide, infertility and grief. What holds it all together is the impressive writing of Ryan, who continues to make a name for himself on the Irish literary landscape.

The book is narrated by Irish Actress Emma Lowe who does a fine job of bringing the various characters to life. It is nice to hear a piece read with an authentic Irish accent.

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